Friday, April 24, 2009

Little Victories and Still More Names

One of my jobs as a teacher at Sherlock Academy is to fill out monthly reports on each of my students. I grade them (A, B, or C) on "participation," "understanding," and "unity" and write a blurb about their performance, the latter being a waste of time since the chances that their parents understand English are nil.

One of my classes has "that kid" in it: goofy-looking, kind of a space cadet, not all that bright. His English name is Shay. The other students make no secret of their disdain for him, which makes the actual mechanics of class impossible. They're fairly old—maybe 12? 13?—but they still act like he has cooties. Getting them to sit where Shay's been sitting, or to touch something he's used, is impossible. This infuriates me both because it makes my job that much harder and because it's a bunch of stupid cruel bullshit. Whenever they're especially awful to Shay, I yell at them, but the extent to which I can express my displeasure and have them understand is basically rapping them on the head with a book or stack of flashcards, saying "no," and looking very angry.

Today I handed out their monthly reports in sealed envelopes. Ignoring my demand to put them straight in their bags, they all tore into them. One of the students—the smartest kid in the class, Tom, a boy who I otherwise adore and find very endearing but he's just as much of a jerk to Shay as any of the other kids—read his with a look of disbelief and dejection, then moped about for the next ten minutes or so. I can only hope it's because the only thing less than an A to mar his otherwise flawless performance was the "B" I gave him (and everyone except Shay, who got an A) in "unity."

The aforementioned Jeff/Yoda is in this class. He's given up on "Yoda." But a boy in one of my classes whose name used to be "Top" has decided he wants to be "Joy."

"Joey," I said, handing back his test. I saw the change marked on the attendance sheet and just assumed that it was a spelling mistake on Mina's part.

"Ah, teacher, no. Joy."

"Joy? J-O-Y?" I wrote it on the board.

"Yes, yes. Joy."

"Okay then."

It's not his name in Korean, and I checked with Mina to see if that was the name of some pop star or other (which accounts for names like "Top" and "Tableau"). No dice. I explained to her that Joy is a woman's name in English, but whatever. No doubt he'll change it again before he's an adult, if he even continues with English anyway.

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